Quilt Blocks Set On-Point

QuiltNotes Learning Center

Last Updated February 21, 2018

Rotate a block 45 degrees. The block is positioned on-point. The corners point horizontally and vertically. The block is standing on one of its corners.


The first thing we look at is the straight position. The Bear Paw block on the left is positioned straight. On the right, the same block is in the on-point position. Both blocks are finished at 7″.

bear paw block set straight      Bear paw block set on-point

What’s the first thing you notice?  The on-point block appears to be much larger than the straight set block. Measure a 7″ block diagonally, from one corner to the opposite corner, and you’ll get about 9-3/4″. If you’re interested, the math for that is 7″ x 1.41 = 9.87″.

The next thing you notice is how the design looks different. Someone might find the straight set block to be more interesting while others might prefer the on-point block. This preference depends on the block design as well.

Why Set Blocks On-Point?

Place the blocks on-point for a diagonal layout. The main reasons for setting blocks on-point in a diagonal layout include quilt size, number of blocks and the look.

First, let’s look at finished quilt size and number of blocks. In this example we use a 7″ finished block, 1″ finished sashing and 1″ finished border.

Place the blocks straight across for a straight set layout.

bear paw blocks set straight

Using 20 blocks, the finished size of this straight set quilt is about 33″ x 41″.

Next, we have a diagonal set layout with blocks set on-point.

bear paw blocks set on-point

Using 18 blocks, the finished size of this diagonal set quilt is about 36″ x 48″.

Compare and Contrast

The quilts are similar in finished size. The quilts are different in the number of blocks needed and the method of assembly. The straight set requires 2 more blocks when compared to the diagonal set. This may not seem like a big deal for this small quilt. More blocks are needed as the quilt gets larger. This might cause frustration if the blocks are difficult to piece. The last thing you want is another UFO.

Piecing a straight set verses a diagonal set does have significant differences. Most quilters are familiar with piecing straight sets. Stitch blocks to each other in rows. Sometimes quilters stitch sashing between the blocks. Stitch rows together with no additional units needed.

Diagonal sets, on the other hand, need additional background units called setting triangles and corner triangles. Some quilters refer to setting triangles as side triangles. Cutting these triangles is easy if you refer to a good Setting and Corner Triangle Cutting Chart. Rotate the blocks 45 degrees. Some of us get a little confused by looking at rotated blocks. Piecing can be less confusing if you have a design wall or flat surface to lay out all the pieces.


  • Straight set layouts are more familiar to quilters than diagonal set layouts.
  • To avoid frustration, beginning quilters should have experience piecing straight sets before attempting diagonal sets. There’s no reason confident beginners shouldn’t attempt to piece a diagonal set. Use the instructions in the article, How to Piece Diagonal Sets.
  • Setting blocks on-point requires fewer blocks but additional cutting and piecing of setting triangles and corner triangles.
  • A block set on-point might be more pleasing to look at than a straight set block.


design wall for blocks on point
72″ Design Wall

design wall for on point blocks
54″ Design Wall

design wall for on point quilts
36″ Design Wall


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